Archive for category Specialty Ale

The Great Pumpkin beer tasting

 

 

So I decided to try some Pumpkin beers on Hallowe’en while watching some bad horror movies (starting with “The Children”- murderous kids and toddlers go on the rampage!) I had five different beers from four breweries. I started with Parallel  49’s Shadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest. A clever idea marrying the easy, malty marzen style lager of the Oktoberfest with some pumpkin and spices of Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving.

 

 

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Parallel 49 Schadenfreude Pumpkin Oktoberfest

This is the only lager from the group and it certainly is easy drinking. There is some nice sweet pumpkin flavour, a hint of vanilla and some  nutmeg and cinnamon perhaps. The spices are light and match the medium bodied maltiness of the beer. Quite a dry spicy finish that, although stops this from being a sweet beer, can be too dry for some.

All in all a good first effort from this brewery and I would recommend this and buy it again next year for sure!

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

 

 

 

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 Lighthouse Pumpkin Ale

This one is a mid amber colour and starts off surprisingly light. There is a mild sweetness from the demerara sugar and a little spice. It finishes very quickly and I felt there was not anything to it. I guess they went for the restrained approach, seeing as some pumpkin ales are cloyingly sweet and spiced out of all proportion, but I feel they were too cautious and missed out on some seasonal flavours.  A rare miss from this reliable brewery!

 

 Wrangler Rating:

 tankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Fair)

 

 

Tree Brewing Jumpin Jack Pumpkin Ale

Tree brewing have a number of seasonals that are usually well received, so how will  their pumpkin ale stack up against some stiff competition? It pours a dark amber and, weighing in at 7%, promises a fuller tasting beer than the other two. With a malty spicy aroma, it doesn’t taste like it’s as strong as it is. It has an even maltiness, a medium body and well integrated spicy flavours. This was a really well balanced beer with all the flavours combining well! This beer is not overly sweet, and the pie spices match the pleasant malt nicely. An easy 3 almost 4 Tankards!

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

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Cannery Knucklehead Pumpkin Ale

The Cannery pumpkin ale comes with a well-dresssed knobbly headed pumpkin gentleman on the label, and pours a bit darker that the others so far. It seems to be based on an amber-brown ale, which leads me to let it warm up a bit, rather than having it straight from the fridge.  It has a slightly smoky note to the spice aroma but the malt seems a bit thin for me.  The spice is definitely dominant, with a touch of black liquorice  but there is almost no sweetness or maltiness, which I like a bit of  in my pumpkin ales. Having said that it went well with my pumpkin BBQ ribs, and the dryness contrasted with the sweetness of the sauce. This one just squeaks a 3 tankards!

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

 

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Parallel 49 Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

This is a bit of a departure from the others in that it is a much fuller bodied beer than the others, with dark malts, mocha notes and made with real chocolate. There is some spice and ginger, but they are laid back and the rich chocolate is definitely king! Pumpkin flavour? well I struggle to taste it, let’s face it, the large orange squash is not known for its strong flavour and it gets a bit lost in this beer. On the other hand this is a delicious beer and my favourite of the ones here, but…. I might struggle to put this in the pumpkin ale group if I was tasting blind. Soooo… what does this mean? Well this is the best beer here but as a pumpkin ale?

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg tankard.jpg(Excellent)

 

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So to conclude the Great Pumpkin Beer Tasting I feel that there is a split decision! Parallel 49 Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter was the best beer out of the five, but … I think Tree Brewing`s Jumpin Jack was the best ‘classic’ pumpkin ale here. On Hallowe’en I want to taste pumpkin pie in a glass but not be overwhelmed by any one element and Tree managed it well.

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Hoyne Wolf Vine Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

Hoyne Wolf Vine is the first beer I have reviewed from this fairly new brewery. Their IPA is popular as is their version of a dark mild, Dark Matter. This is a limited release due to the availability of the fresh hops and sees Sean Hoyne, formerly of Swans brewpub and Canoe brewpub, and brother of Lighthouse founder and brewer Paul Hoyne, enter the fresh/wet hopped beer fad that is gripping British Columbia at this time of year.

Instead of going for an IPA, Hoyne has gone for the less bitter pale ale, and given it the fresh treatment. It pours a mid amber colour with a bubbley head and leaves heavy lacing around the glass. The aroma is terrific with a big hit of fresh, green leafy notes, lime zest and lime flower. The palate is a bit more restrained but develops more as the beer warms up to cellar temperature. There are less of those aromatics than I expected and it tastes less hoppy than it smells. There is a good balance of bitterness on the finish, leaving a leafy, herbal note in my mouth. Overall a good beer that I enjoyed but it didn’t totally wow me. This would be nice with a (real) mature cheddar ploughman’s lunch.

Serving: 650ml Bottle

ABV: 5.5%

Best Served: 7-10°C

 

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It’s Hammer Time -Phillips Style

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Phillips Brewing make a highly regarded Imperial Stout every year in limited amounts which usually sells out fairly quickly. This year they released a bourbon whiskey barrel aged version in even smaller numbers. But is all that extra effort and cost worth it? I decided to gather the Wranglerette and have a taste off. Is the barrel aged pure gold bullion, or is it full of bull? I always like to start with the original so here goes:

In the Blue corner….

Phillips Hammer Imperial Stout

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

It pours as dark as beer gets, with a dark, creamy tan head. There are aromas of black molasses and burnt caramel with sweet roasted coffee beans. The palate follows on and adds hints of sweet dark cocoa and a hint of cooked dried fruit. It has a creamy and silky texture, so doesn’t lie too heavily, and remains very drinkable. The finish is fairly long with the creaminess of this beer lingering.

In the Red corner….

Phillips Hammer Bourbon Aged Imperial Stout

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

Despite the previous description of colour – I swear this is actually darker and even denser, but with the same creamy, dark tan head. The aroma is much more different than I had imagined with a lot of the burnt characteristics smoothed out with a touch of vanilla-like sweetness.  The notes of whiskey are there too, but not overpowering, lending some richness to this big stout. The flavours echo the aromas and feel more integrated than the non-aged version. I don’t know how long this block-buster gets in barrel, but it certainly gives it a smooth rich evenness. But…. the bourbon aged stout seems to have lost something along the way, the bite of those heavily roasted malts have been reigned in and replaced by a simpler sweetness. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good beer but it’s not as drinkable as the original, and a small glass is enough before my palate needs refreshing. It gets a lower score than the original, which is totally against my preconceptions, as I generally like barrel aged beer, but this time it only added a sweetness which smoothed out those peaks of flavour I rather enjoyed!

Phillips should be applauded for trying this out as it keeps BC’s breweries right up there with all the current trending on craft brewing, and I’d like to see them try it again next year with different barrels. If they could buy some of the Samuel Smith Stingo barrels – now that would be interesting!

Both Stouts:

ABV: 8.3%

Best Served: 14 – 16°C

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Nogne O God Jul (Winter Ale)

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Outstanding)

Nogne O is a craft brewery from Norway, and judging from my first experience of their beer, is going to take the craft brewing world by storm!  Their Strong Winter Warmer is an absolute must for any fan of dark rich warming ales.

It pours a deep, dark mahogany amber, that needs to be held up to the light to appreciate its colour. The aromas that hit you are ones of spice, dates, madeira and caramel. As you drink this luxurious ale the tan head slowly dissipates, but the flavour does not. Notes of Christmas pudding and fruitcake persist and are joined by more sweet fortified wine flavours with hints of coffee bean, molasses and  spice.  Sweet liquorice can be found on the lengthy finish with some almost oaky tones.

The amazing thing is that this is not a spiced Christmas ale according to the brewery, but the flavours are complex, integrated and definitely festive!  This is truly an outstanding beer, and I can’t wait to taste this after one or two years aging – the complexity and integration can only improve – if that’s possible!

ABV: 8.5%

Best Served 12°C

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Winter Beer Showdown

Seasonal beers are filling the shelves right about now, and go well beyond any single type. The basic style is the classic Winter Warmer. This is not usually spiced but brewed to a slightly stronger alcohol volume (6% – 7% is typical for this warming malty style). Specialty Christmas beers take their cues from the old Wassail Ales – spiced, sometimes fortified, mulled beer given to carol singers in Medieval England. Although no longer fortified or served warm, it is usually strong and spiced, rich and filling. There are other winter seasonal ales brewed in the Belgium style.  They tend to be strong and dark with a super-rich malt profile.

Lagers get a make over too with the German, and now Canadian specialty, Ice-Bock, giving fans of strong and malty dark amber lagers something to enjoy. Of course breweries the world over make all sorts of beers for the festive season and often they don’t fit easily into any specific style, but that’s what makes it fun – beer can be full of surprises!

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Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Samuel Smith Yorkshire Stingo is a classic in the British beer scene. It’s an Old Ale which means that it has had some time well spent in very old seasoned oak casks, many of which date back more than a century. Each year adds to the beer-soaked wood and helps them give more complexity to the finished product.  This ale spends over a year conditioning in the oak and is bottled with yeast, so can condition further in the bottle.  It pours a deep amber colour with a thick and lively tan head. The aromas are fruity and almost Madeira-like. The taste follows on and delivers more. Dates and brandy-soaked orange peel hit your tongue followed by  treacle and vanilla notes. There is a subtle oaky finish that keeps the sweet flavours in check. This is a Christmas Pudding of a beer that allows  you to keep on eating! Stingo proves that British beer can have as much flavour and intensity as a Belgian ale if the desire by the brewer is there. Serve on its own after a meal or with a blue cheese such as Stilton.

ABV 9%

Best Served 14-16° C

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Driftwood Belle Royale

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Driftwood Brewery Belle Royale is described as a Strong Belgian Cherry Ale, and seems to be based on a Tripel or strong golden ale  recipe, with “900 pounds of cherries” added. They don’t specify how much beer gets the 900 pounds but we get the idea – there’s  a lot, and they’re real cherries, not cherry flavour or syrup. It has a lovely pink amber colour, a thinnish head, with a spicy, fruity aroma.  The flavour has a hit of sweet spice and sour red cherries that lingers on the palate and develops into a long finish with sweet herbal notes.

Not only do Driftwood excel at making beer, but they design some of the best labels on beer bottles anywhere in the world, and this ode to Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin-Rouge paintings is no exception. It’s sexy and sassy – a bit like the Belle Royale  itself!

ABV: 9%

Best Served: 8°C

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Dogfish Head Midas Touch

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Yum Yum! Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch is both justified and ancient, being based on a 2700 year old ancient Anatolian recipe which is a re-creation based on analysis of drinking vessels that were uncovered during an archaeological dig in what is now Turkey – drinking vessels that resided within what is thought to be the tomb of none other than King Midas himself (although suspiciously they had not been turned to gold!)

I can’t say that I have ever tasted a beer quite like this (which is equal parts a delight and a shame.) Deeply golden in colour it is pleasingly sweet with hints of honey and muscat grapes but without the cloying sweetness of many meads (or bee vomit as I like to call it).  The nose has distinct notes of tropical fruit and the finish has a deliciously dry biscuity taste.

As there aren’t really any other beers like this out there I don’t have much compare it to but I think this beer would be a great one for ladies to try but anyone interested in exploring the myriad of flavours beer can create would do well to give this a go.

I’d pair Midas Touch with a Moroccan tagine or a mild Goan prawn curry with coconut milk rice dumplings.

ABV: 9%

Best Served: 8°C

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Pyramid Breweries Snow Cap Winter Warmer

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Excellent)

Pyramid Snow Cap is the Winter seasonal offering from this popular Seattle brewery, and claims to be made in the “spirit of the British Winter ales”. At 7% alcohol, it certainly has the strength to warm the cockles, but does the flavour keep up? The combination of  English and Pacific North West hops give this Winter warmer a nice bitterness, but unlike many other North American versions of this classic Christmas brew, it has copious amounts of delicious malt to back it up and keep them in check. There are notes of cocoa bean and dark caramel on the palate, which leads onto the hoppy flavours; a touch of citrus, spice and a light floral taste give way to a rounded, balanced and smooth finish. This beer is a joy to drink and is a fantastic interpretation of a Winter Warmer, keeping true to the tradition, while maintaining its own Northwest identity. Drink this one with a beer-battered fish and chips, at Pike Place Market in Seattle, or in a London Chippy, it’ll feel right at home at either!

ABV: 7%

Best Served: 12°C

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Rogue Mogul Madness Ale

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg (Recommended)

Rogue Mogul Madness Ale is a  Winter warmer with bite. It has a dark ruby-brown colour and a fairly creamy tan head that stays with the beer. There are some caramel flavours with some faint notes of banana bread. The unusual thing for a winter warmer, but not unusual for Rogue, are the obvious handfuls of hops used in the brew. They offer a pleasant bitterness on the finish that tastes a little grapefruity, and tends to last for a while after the beer has been swallowed. This is an enjoyable beer, but tastes like a good ESB to me. Rogue don’t seem to want to make a beer that has been lightly hopped, and perhaps are now victims of their own dogma, producing a lot of excellent but similar tasting products. I would love to see them do a really rich malty winter warmer, as they are brilliant brewers but are in danger of becoming just a bit one-dimensional.

ABV: 6.5% (approx)

Best Served: 12°C

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Anchor Brewing ‘Our Special Ale’ 2009 (Christmas Ale)

anchor2009Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg(Excellent)

Anchor Brewing famously change the recipe for their Special Ale every year, as well choose a different tree, a symbol of the Winter Solstice, to adorn the label. This version (2009), when held up to the light, has a gorgeously dense ruby colour and an almost creamy pale tan head. The aroma is full of malty molasses with a definite hoppy highlight. The flavours that follow fill the mouth, but don’t overwhelm it; the main taste that starts off is a strong malty one, that develops into a black molasses backbone to the beer. There are some laid-back spicy notes layered into the malt, perhaps nutmeg or a hint of cardamon, but the hit of a citrus hop gives this sweetish beer an assertive and refreshing finish. This Winter seasonal ale is a real pleasure to drink, and is not too heavy or laden with spices, so is good for  those who find the ‘big’ spiced warmers a bit too much!

ABV: 5.5%

Best Served: 10°C

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Granville Island Brewing Pumpkin Ale

giblabel_pumpkin_aleWrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg(Recommended)

Granville Island Pumpkin Ale is a tasty bright ruddy amber coloured beer. The aroma is really quite sweet, and is reminiscent of a Belgian strong pale ale, smelling of candied orange peel and sweet spice. The flavour is thankfully not as sugary as the nose suggests, containing toasted pumpkin seed, and the roasted flesh of the pumpkin. The beer notes are not lost though, there are plenty of roasty malt flavours and a nice refreshing bitter finish. Why not pair this with some cold roast meat and chutney left over from a Thanksgiving lunch – it’ll go perfectly!

ABV: 6%
Best served: 8°C
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Traquair Jacobite Ale

Traquair_Jacobite_Ale

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg(Outstanding)

Traquair Jacobite Ale is brewed in the historic Traquair House, one of the oldest inhabited houses in Britain. This beer descends from an 18th century recipe, and it has left us a very full-bodied Scotch Ale.   The name ‘Jacobite’ comes from the followers of King James II of England, VII of Scotland who was deposed as King of Great Britain by the Dutch William of Orange. In 1745 there was a final failed attempt to oust the German King George II in favour of Charles Stuart ( the grandson of James II/VII) and this beer commemorates the 250th anniversary of this rebellion.This is a marvelously well balanced spiced wee heavy, with a hit of  black treacle and aged red wine on the approach. Dark liquorice notes follow on, suggesting a touch of sweetness, with just a hint of the coriander, but the finish moves on to a wonderfully dry, vinous bitter cocoa bean denouement. This is a fantastic example of a flavoured strong ale, and should be tasted by anyone who considers themselves an aficionado of beer. I would drink this on its own as a digestif, instead of port or brandy as the flavours and strength make this a meal in itself.

*                                                          ABV: 8%

*                                                          Best Served: 12°C

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Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew Ale

fullers-Honey_Dew

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg(excellent)

Fuller’s Honey Dew is a Golden / Summer Ale that is brewed with organic honey; don’t think that this is a sweet beer though, as the honey is subtle and beautifully balanced. There is a touch of the pale malt, a spritz of hops and the honey note that finishes it all off with a thirst quenching roundness. A nicely chilled pint of this on a hot summer’s afternoon is where it’s best. It is light enough to drink on its own all day, or matched with a summer salad or grilled chicken dish. It has a pale golden colour and light carbonation that complements the refreshing style of this ale from one of London’s best independent brewers.

ABV: 5%

Best served: 7°C

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Fraoch Heather Ale (Williams Bros. Brewing)

Fraoch_Heather_Ale

Wrangler Rating:

tankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpgtankard.jpg(Excellent)

This is a version of an old Scottish recipe, using heather flowers and gale to flavour the brew rather than hops. Gale is a plant traditionally use to make ‘Gruit’, a mixture of herbs to flavour ale.  It is great to see someone make historic ales as the Williams Brothers do; their selection includes four other beers which are well worth investigating. The beer has a pale amber colour with a light head. There is a touch of malt on the palate followed by an attractive herbaceous floral flavour. The subtle sweetness of the heather and gale notes are balanced by a crisp dry finish. This beer would go well with flavoursome salads and many chicken and pork dishes – more versatile than you would imagine!

ABV: 5%

Best Served: 11°C

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